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LibreOrganize 0.6.0 - Documentation

Risking Your Life for the News: Journalists in México

from the Jan. 25, 2023 Bulletin

The news stories and analyses of José Luis Granados Ceja, a freelance writer and photojournalist based in México City, focus on contemporary political issues, especially those that involve grassroots efforts to affect social change in México and the rest of Latin America. His Anti-Imperialista column appears monthly in our México Solidarity Bulletin Reflections section.  


In México, the PRI political party maintained power for 70 years by turning social sectors into its appendages. The PRI, for instance, appointed the heads of labor unions. How about the media?


In any country, the media help establish the hegemony of the political elite. But in México the media played an outsized role and made no secret of it. 

In the 1980s, for instance, Emilio Azcárraga Milmo, the head of Televisa, even openly stated, “I am a soldier of the PRI!” For a century, México amounted to what some analysts called “a perfect dictatorship.” It had one-party rule and a compliant media that covered up human rights abuses.


How did the government keep the media on a leash? Like labor, the media were bought off. Government funds kept media outlets and journalists afloat. Asked about the deaths of journalists, the PRI’s current president, Alito Moreno, said cynically, “We don’t have to murder journalists. We kill them with hunger.”


Does independent journalism now have more room under AMLO?


We’ve seen an explosion of citizen journalism, but most of the credit for that goes to the rise of social media, especially YouTube. Newscaster Vicente Serrano’s Sin Censura, a viewer-funded YouTube site, offers one good example, the progressive website-based SinEmbargo another. With social media, independent journalists can operate inexpensively. Hunger can’t kill their independent voices!


México today also has public channels that don’t operate as propaganda machines, much like National Public Radio — NPR — in the US, and many universities have their own channels as well.


Journalism continues to be one of the most dangerous professions in México. The murders have not abated. Why?


Under previous presidents, many of the journalists murdered were working as investigative reporters. They were targeted because they exposed corruption — politicians, for example working hand-in-glove with the drug cartels.


The situation has not improved. In terms of security, México is facing a crisis of impunity. Powerful people feel they can get away with crime because the local and state police are still sitting in the pockets of organized crime, and those who use cartels to get rid of those who might reveal their corruption often never face prosecution.


Journalists have demanded more protection. A program does exist that assigns guards to protect individual journalists, but it doesn’t work. What kind of expertise do those who take these security jobs need to have? Would greater militarization be the answer? We have no solutions yet.


What about the state media, Notimex?  A long and bitter strike has been going on there. Why hasn’t this been resolved?


A tragic case. The well-respected progressive journalist AMLO appointed to run Notimex tried too hard to control the service’s messaging and treated the employees badly. This could have been resolved easily. AMLO needed to have insisted right away that the workers’ rights must be respected.


You’ve written that widely read journalists hostile to López Obrador like Denise Dresser shape how the majority of people in the US see AMLO.


Dresser poses as a progressive who allegedly voted for AMLO. But whatever AMLO does, she gives it a negative spin. Real progressives see her as what she is: an apologist for the right who wants a return to the pre-Morena days. At one progressive demonstration where Dresser turned up, people told her unceremoniously she wasn’t welcome. The mainstream media then leapt to her defense. Mexicans know where the loyalty of those people lies.


But people in the United States, unfortunately, don’t — including many US progressives. They read the columns by Dresser and other mainstream journalists and accept their analyses that regularly reinforce the notion that the “good old day were better,” that AMLO has been more corrupt and authoritarian than the PRI/PAN governments.


Those old days were better — for US imperial interests, with PRI/PAN acting as a willing partner in opening the door to US economic predation at the expense of México’s people.


You’re a freelance journalist yourself. What do you want to bring to public attention?


First, I’m not a Morena party member, but I support the party’s agenda of political, economic and social transformation. I report on what’s happening in Latin America from a left point of view. One example: The English-language media don’t carry much news about Latin America’s new “Pink Tide,” the political turn to the left that has México at the tip of the wave. I want to show that this wave reflects struggles for national liberation, struggles to resist imperialism and defend national sovereignty.


Domestically, I explore the contradictions within México, but neither from an ultra-left perspective — that makes any problem the fault of the US — nor from an oppositional stance that seeks to get rid of AMLO and Morena.


To better understand current media dynamics, let’s take the way environmental issues get covered. Many articles make AMLO seem like a dinosaur who wants to keep emitting carbon and drilling for oil, the environment be damned. That’s nonsense. The real issue remains sovereignty: AMLO wants to strengthen the state oil and energy sectors.


Under Peña Nieto, AMLO’s predecessor, we saw huge demonstrations about rising gas prices. Today, gas — an energy source no nation can eliminate overnight — has become more affordable and accessible.


The clean energy companies some environmentalists tout as México’s salvation turn out to be US-owned. By portraying AMLO as anti-environment, the champions of these companies open the door to private foreign capital. AMLO wants to be able to control foreign investment so money doesn’t flow out of México, but stays at home to benefit the people.


This issue has confronted México for over a century: how to get out from under US thumb.


So how important is better understanding what’s going on in México?


Ruling classes around the world are finding it increasingly difficult to defend what’s happening in their countries. Ordinary people are looking for answers and alternatives. They should look to México and Latin America! And it’s our job, as independent journalists, to help you look behind the curtain.